By Jeanette Arnquist
As I look back on 2020 and 2021, I see a time of darkness and fear. We have all experienced painful losses during this time, and some are deeply grieving the death of people they loved. COVID-19 is still with us, claiming lives in our communities and around the world. The discovery of the Omicron variant and all the questions that surround it are bringing our hopes and plans for 2022 into question.
In this country we are politically polarized to the point that we seem to live in different universes, unable to communicate with each other. And our Church, once seen as a sign of unity, is also deeply divided along the same lines.
Is there any hope in this darkness?
During his Dec. 2 visit to Cyprus, Pope Francis emphasized that “walls do not and should not exist in the Catholic Church ... The Church is a common home, a place of relationships and coexistence in diversity.”
Dialogue is the way forward. As Pope Francis said, “Let us nurture hope by the power of gestures, rather than by gestures of power.”
As individuals we can’t stop COVID and we can’t bring about civility, much less unity. But there is hope. Hope begins in small ways. A tiny baby laid in a manger 2000 years ago is the light in the darkness, the hope of the world.
If that hope is to be found it 2022, it is up to us who believe in that baby and the Gospel he preached to be ambassadors of hope. Even if we can’t do great things, we can do small things. We can do justice, love mercy and walk humbly (Amos 6:8).
We can share our bread with the hungry. We can welcome the stranger. We can say words of kindness and gentleness to people who think differently than we do. We can make the time to take the time to listen to each other. We can only take steps toward dialogue if we are ready to hear each other and open ourselves to learning and understanding. And a small dose of humility will help us to realize that we don’t necessarily have all the answers.
In other words, we can take the love that God gratuitously showers on each of us and shower it upon our friends and enemies, family and strangers, people close by and far away. If we can do this, surely we will begin to bring hope, little by little, into 2022.
Jeanette Arnquist is a former Director of the Department of Life, Dignity & Justice for the Diocese of San Bernardino. She is retired and living in Tucson, Arizona where she remains active in social concerns ministries.